Following his victory in Japan, Lewis Hamilton could seal the 2018 Formula One drivers’ championship at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin on October 21.
Hamilton claimed his fourth straight win at Suzuka, where main title rival Sebastian Vettel struggled to a sixth-place finish in what was an error-strewn weekend for the Ferrari driver. The result opened up the gap between the pair to 67 points with four races left.
The next one is at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, one of Hamilton’s strongest race venues — he’s won five of the six races there since it returned to the calendar in 2012. He wrapped up the 2015 championship at COTA by beating Nico Rosberg to the top step of the podium.
He could do that again this year if he leaves the Lone Star State with a 75-point lead, which would be an unassailable amount for Vettel to overcome in the remaining three races. F1’s points are awarded to the top ten finishers — 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1 — meaning he effectively needs to out-score Vettel by eight points in Austin to secure the championship.
The most simple way for Hamilton to win the title would be to replicate the results of the last two races, in Russia and Japan, by leading home Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in a one-two finish. If Hamilton is second, Vettel must finish fourth to keep the fight alive. A third-place finish would be enough for Hamilton if Vettel is seventh or lower.
Considering Hamilton has not finished a race off the podium this season it is hard to imagine him doing so in Austin, but were that to happen here are the various ways Vettel could extend the fight to Mexico:
• If Hamilton finishes fourth, Vettel must finish seventh or above
• If Hamilton finishes sixth, Vettel must finish tenth or above
• If Hamilton finishes seventh or lower, the title race goes to Mexico regardless
If the championship goes to Mexico’s race the following weekend, Hamilton will secure the championship if his lead is 50 points or more by the end of that round.